Kallis blooms at Eden Gardens

South Africa 227 for 5 (Kallis 103*, Rudolph 61, Pathan 3-61) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

After the unresponsive track at Kanpur, this pitch, at the Eden Gardens, had something for everybody, and the difference was clear immediately. Jacques Kallis reached his sixth century in a year as wickets fell around him to aggressive quick bowling, and he handled the spinners competently, if not always comfortably. South Africa recovered due to his and Jacques Rudolph's efforts, and finished on 227 for 5 by close of play.

Kallis has had an exemplary year, beginning with the series against a powerless West Indian team. Often he arrived at the crease after the attack had been savaged, and he proceeded to further their pain. Today, however, he came in when South Africa were reeling at 21 for 2, with both openers gone. With him was Rudolph, who was gritty but lucky. Moreover, Zaheer Khan was letting fly deliveries aimed at the stumps. It was tough going, but Kallis constructed his innings patiently with mostly risk-free strokeplay. Sometimes he attempted premeditated sweeps against Harbhajan Singh, but realised the futility of it all and reverted to a more natural game.

Before the series began, he had spoken of his new role as an adviser, a senior member, in this new-look side. When Hashim Amla, a cool customer with quick hands and feet, arrived at the centre, Kallis initiated him into international cricket with an extensive chat. Kallis's presence at the wicket gave his team-mates confidence. When he reached his first hundred against India with a powerful square-cut, the team leaped up in unison and applauded, no doubt appreciating how vital the innings was.

India's bowlers, led by Zaheer, were stingy. Irfan Pathan, who had a wayward opening spell, returned strongly and conceded 61 runs in 22 overs. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan barely gave anything away, and were unlucky with wickets.

The opening bowlers gave India the upper hand early. Graeme Smith chased the second ball of the day, by Pathan, and edged it to Dinesh Karthik, who took everything that came his way. Not long after, Zaheer subjected Andrew Hall to a searching examination for five balls and took his wicket with the sixth, a straight one that Hall edged behind (21 for 2).

After sustaining an injury in Australia last year, Zaheer showed signs last month that he was returning to the sort of form that India needed sorely from him. Here he probed every batsman who faced him, swinging or angling the ball away.

Rudolph was troubled by Zaheer's approach, but hung on and overcame the doubts caused by near-edges and calls of 'ooh' from behind. He chose to play the ball late for much of his innings. At times this was advantageous, for he countered the late swing successfully. But to the spinners, this allowed the ball to turn and bounce, which cramped him. He was ultimately bowled by Zaheer, pushing at a straight ball. His dismissal brought Amla to the crease.

Amla, on first account, plays with nimble feet and quick hands. He played the bowlers with an open stance, which caused him trouble when the ball turned into him, but otherwise he seemed comfortable. He cut Kumble for an exquisite four for his first runs, and later flicked Zaheer to midwicket. He then took to Harbhajan, hoisted him to midwicket and cutting him savagely for another boundary off the next ball.

Pathan then removed Amla in the middle of a searing spell. The ball pitched on middle, cut away, and hit off stump. Boeta Dippenaar then edged one to Karthik to give Pathan his third wicket (182 for 5). Pathan improved as the day went on, and bowled at his best with the old ball. His stamina, a boon for India, flagged towards the end. He taken off the attack, brought on again when the new ball was taken.

With Zander de Bruyn's help, Kallis ensured there were no more setbacks till the end, though de Bruyn survived a caught-behind appeal off Harbhajan, who was unlucky there. It would have exposed South Africa's lower order. India continued to probe away thereafter, for on this pitch, there was always a chance.

Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo.